As Lebanon continues to reel from the triple shock of the devastating blast in Beirut, economic meltdown and the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Food Programme (WFP) is racing to prevent food shortage in the country.
WFP chief David Beasley announced the agency will deliver 17,500 metric tons of wheat flour and a three-month supply of wheat to help replenish food reserves.
The first wheat flour shipment is expected to arrive within the next 10 days.
“It is hard to comprehend the sheer scale of the destruction caused by the explosion until you have seen it for yourself. I am heartbroken,” Mr. Beasley said after spending three days in Lebanon.
“Today, because of the port explosion, thousands of people have been left homeless and hungry. WFP is racing to provide help for the most vulnerable and to prevent food shortages across the country.”
While in Lebanon, Mr. Beasley visited the Ports of Beirut and Tripoli, witnessing food distributions and the provision of food in communal kitchens run by WFP’s partner, Catholic relief network Caritas.
He also visited injured WFP staff in the hospital and met with President Michel Aoun and top government officials where he stressed the agency’s operational autonomy and neutrality.
The WFP assistance is part of a rapid logistics operation that will also involve setting up warehouses and mobile grain storage units.
Lebanon imports nearly 85% of its food and Beirut Port was essential for trade coming into the country.
WFP will also bring in equipment to render the port operational enough so that wheat and other bulk grains can be imported, while a third plane will carry generators and mobile storage units as an immediate solution.
“After examining the port we feel confident that we can establish an emergency operation very soon,” said Mr. Beasley. “There’s no time to waste as we are looking at a catastrophe in the making if we do not get food in and get this part of the port operational again.”
With one million people in Lebanon currently living below the poverty line, according to World Bank data, WFP is also helping families affected by the economic crisis and COVID-19 lockdown measures.
The UN agency has procured 150,000 food parcels for households. Since the Beirut explosion, it has distributed parcels to two local communal kitchens that are providing meals to victims and volunteers.
WFP also will scale-up its cash assistance programme, which currently serves more than 100,000 people. The aim is to reach one million across the country, including Beirut residents directly affected by the explosion.
Overall, WFP will require US$235 million to cover this emergency assistance, as well as logistics and supply chain support. (Source: UN News)